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The Last Friday of the Year

[This morning, December 2011.]

December 30th. We are tiptoeing up to the edge of the year and peering over its edge into the unknown. I’m slowly sipping my last Hardcore Espresso coffee for awhile — to savor it, you know — after my last swim of 2011, with my feet tucked into the blankets to warm them up after the cool of the pool water. It wasn’t terribly cold, but it’s damp and almost drizzly out there and even when you’ve busily churned through the water for a mile or so to get your muscles loose and warm it seeps in. Not in a bad way necessarily, but it’s good to dive back into bed for a little bit before greeting the rest of the day.

I always forget how much I love swimming. Or no — I forget how much I love swimming in Sebastopol. I’ve been here for a week (!) now, to celebrate the holidays and also just to reconnect with my hometown. I shopped local for the kids in my life — a recycling truck made from, of course, recycled materials was a big hit –, there was a Christmas Eve brunch at the new cafe in town, there was running into high school friends on Main Street, there was a yoga class in which I finally learned to do a headstand, there were countless double 8 oz. americanos. And there was swimming — three times at the outdoor pool downtown. It always is a bit of a trip to swim there, because that’s where I learned to swim when I was about 5 years old twenty-something years awhile ago. How many hours did I log there during my stints as a day camp counselor? My hair was probably the blondest it will ever be because of all that sun. As running and I are on a hiatus for the foreseeable future I’m rediscovering my penchant for lap-swimming, grabbing onto yoga with both hands, and reminding myself that sometimes you have to take a break from things you love so that when you can engage in them again you’ll appreciate them all the more. Running is my fall-back, my steady, but skimming through chlorine-tinged water, taking the turns at the end, feeling the quiet whooosh of air and splashing water as you slice your arms cleanly through it — well, I cannot ever complain about it.


[Christmas 2011.]

On Christmas the sun burned through the fog at the coast leaving it clear and warm. California is so dry this year; the mountains are lacking their usual (and much-needed) carpet of snow, the hills of Sonoma County are pale gold still rather than green. And yet a part of me cannot regret this stolen month of sun. The light has been incredible lately — a winter-light, a pale blue and white so different from the blazing white-gold of October and then November when it is less intense but still very autumn. In early winter there is most often buckets of rain — last year for Christmas we were housebound before the fire with cookbooks and cups of tea, which was its own special pleasure — and when December 25th is clear it is my favorite present.

We went out to Bodega Head, which seems to be the place for the traditional Christmas coast walk, and man was it ever clear. It felt like summer, if we ever got real summer here. (OK, I take it back; I’ve had lots of nice July days along the coast, it’s just in San Francisco things get a bit grim.) Seals (or sea lions?) were leaping and playing like dolphins out of the breakers, surely celebrating that gift of a day in their own fashion. The massive group of them barking at each other on the little rock island offshore were perhaps singing carols but probably just fighting for space (they were so loud). Near the end of our walk we squinted into the sun to see — yes — whales spouting out to sea, the flash of a tail. Just another day to the ocean’s creatures but to we humans: magic.

This year the holidays were very social with drop-ins by and to us and lunch guests and celebrating an engagement and Christmas Eve dinner with the neighbors. I cooked a lot — two roasted chickens with lemon and rosemary, cauliflower soup, two cakes, various batches of cookies, latkes for a mid-week meal, more –, not to mention the crazy flurry of baking and packaging that occurred the week previous, and ate a lot too. It was a golden stretch of days: the presents were all just right, given and received; there was lots of sleep, if the daylight hours were full up with things to do; there was so much sun; there was just enough cooking to satisfy my need to throw a party. At the end of this stolen week, poised to go back to the city, I am grateful good friends and family and a few days off. And for all that swimming, too.

[Brekkie, Sebastopol, December 2011.]

I do not have any dramatic resolutions for the new year, but there are always a few: to buy American-made as much as possible, to really make an effort to seek it out; to buy local; to keep on with the composting (last year’s vow, and I have stuck to it pretty well); to shake myself out of the cooking rut I fall into when extremely busy (though I do think I could happily eat quinoa and vegetables every single day it might get boring); to go on more backpacking trips; to be a better correspondent; to jump back on the freelancing bandwagon with more vigor; to take time to slow down and not perpetually give in to the rushrush; to get up 15 minutes earlier every day. Little wishes for 2012 but perhaps they are achievable for their simplicity.

2011 was so full I think I am still chewing it over. So many trips to Yosemite. So much activity. So many visits from my best-beloveds. So much baking. 2012 is already looking to be full of travels by me — to Maine, so soon, to Costa Rica, perhaps to Michigan — and I will be baking yet another wedding cake (not mine this time, thankfully) as well as many other things I’m sure. Today, poised on the cusp, I hope for new adventures and good conversations and more time spent with those I love. I wish you much of the same — and for anything else you’re hoping for.

See you next year.


  1. Happy New Year, Nicole! You have had an impressive year. . .I look forward to reading more in 2012. I love your outlook on life in general!

  2. I’m so envious. Though had I read “last Friday” this morning, I would’ve been thinking more about 8 oz. americanos and crawling back into bed and less about the lap pool. That does it, it’s java time. Besides, I biked earlier today, swoosh included.

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